Welcome to Birta

By HANNAH REHAK  Mountains outline the horizon, fruit trees freckle the expansive green fields, and cows graze along the dirt paths that run through the village. Reporting Morocco’s student journalists had the opportunity to immerse themselves in this environment during a weeklong home-stay excursion in Birta, a small village located outside of Fez. Our reporting assignment was to describe or photograph a person and a scene from the village.  With a population of approximately 800 residents, Birta is a tight-knit community of families, farmers and vendors who work the land and routinely commute to the city.

Read more

Before the Call to Prayer

By Hannah Rehak

Photo by William Matsuda

 

Mohammed holds a knife in his right hand and begins shredding the stalk of a beetroot. With a seeming lack of precision, he whips the knife from the head of the beet to the end of the leaves, cleaning it off within seconds. He throws the bulb into a plastic bag, already three fourths full, and begins another. But not before flashing a proud smile.

 

His father’s second wife, Mama Fatna, is hunched over in another trench, swiftly tugging at the tufts of crisp leaves.

Read more

Fatna’s Home

By Hannah Rehak

Photo by Will Matsuda

Fatna Farhat never thought she’d live in a village like Birta. But when her husband decided to move from Casablanca, the largest of Morocco’s cities, to a rural village just outside of Fez, she knew she had no choice but to go with him. She was 30 years old and the new bride of a polygamous man who already had two wives.

Roughly two decades later, she has gained seniority as the first wife because those before her left through divorce and separation. For years, Farhat and her two biological children shared a six-room house with Jemma, the fourth wife who had five children, but when Farhat came into her father’s inheritance three years ago, she made a decision that would forever alter the family dynamic.

Read more

Challenging Illiteracy in Morocco, a Bookseller Pursues Paradise

By Hannah Rehak

Photographs by Will Matsuda

RABAT, Morocco – Magazines spill out onto a busy street and blue painted shutters stretch open, exposing Aziz Muhammed sitting on a dusty pillow. As always, he is reading, eyes focused on an orange-bound book, spectacles resting on his prominent nose. Though tucked away behind the work of hundreds of authors, Muhammed is known throughout the medina, the oldest part of Rabat, for his unique aesthetic. He is a 66-year-old bouquiniste, a proud bookseller, in a country with an adult literacy rate of approximately 67 percent.

Read more